5 Things I Wish I Knew At The Start Of My MBA

Andy ForbesAndy Forbes is a current Adelaide MBA student and the IT Manager at Cavendish Superannuation. Andy is also the author of the blog and contributes a monthly post to the Adelaide MBA blog on general business issues and his MBA study. [Read all of Andy’s posts] Andy can be reached on his website and LinkedIn.


Studying an MBA is a long journey. Juggling a career, family and study can be tough going. There’s a joke that MBA stands for ‘Married But Absent’ and at times it certainly feels that way. Like many journeys there are a few things I wish I knew at the start, and that’s what this post is about. Here are the five things I wish I knew when starting my MBA study:

5 Things I Wish I Knew At The Start Of My MBA

1. Don’t hand in safe assignments

I previously approached my assignments as something I was going to present to my employer. As one of my MBA lecturers pointed out (thanks Sam Wells), it is a nice approach but it restricts your thinking, and in turn your learning. Your ideas will be inhibited – consciously or subconsciously, to ensure they’re acceptable for management to read. Sure, you will think and write in a more empowered way but you’ll pull up shorter on radical ideas, because of concern that it may be rejected by your peers.

Imagine that you were in complete control at your workplace. Be opinionated, passionate and powerful. Think – what would someone like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or even Kerry Packer have said if they were in your shoes? They would not be making safe recommendations. Push your limits, be a little crazy.

Disclaimer – if you go down this path, don’t forget an MBA is a post-graduate course, and requires a certain academic rigour. Be prepared that you will occasionally get it wrong- take it on the chin, learn and keep pushing, you’ll be better for it.

2. Group Assignments – Allocate someone just to do the editing

When doing group work, I’ve found that it works best if you allocate someone just to the task of editing. Give them the power to revise and re-do any of the group’s work. At first, it doesn’t feel fair, as everyone will be writing their section whilst the editor is waiting for content, but it works really well, and they end up working just as hard.

Asking someone to contribute equally to the content, as well as editing can be unfair and can limit the team’s success.

The editing of an assignment, making it sound ‘of one voice’, and ensuring it meets the assignment criteria usually takes longer than one of the sections. Often, the editor is required to rewrite large portions of one or two group member’s submissions. Being the editor can be hard work, and should be left to the person who cares the most about high grades.

3. Worry less about definitions and more about applying them

Lecturers generally don’t want to see definitions. If you are just repeating what is in the textbook you are probably approaching the question from the wrong angle. Use the term or concept a little more like assumed knowledge, and then demonstrate understanding of it by its application. It sounds obvious, but the trick is getting the balance right for each subject and lecturer.

4. Group Assignments – Don’t be afraid to use your company

Using your company for group projects may seem a little limiting – you already know your company, right? In practice works really well though. A group project on your company will give surprising insights and will result in a deeper understanding of your company’s dynamics and issues. It will give you an opportunity to talk to internal managers about work issues outside of your regular role or department in the company. Also, from a networking perspective, these managers will see you being pro-active about your career and personal development.  All good things.

If you’re taking my advice from point 1, you may need to audit your assignment before letting fellow employees see the results!

5. Read a wide range of business books and biographies

Read more. Read business books and biographies of famous people. Lecturers love it when you reference outside material as it shows you are making connections that they haven’t spoon fed you. It will be helpful in your assignments, and on your journey to be a better manager. A good book can supply knowledge and inspiration.

Don’t just read business books that are fresh off the press either, there is a lot value in the previous generation’s reading list.

So that’s 5 things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA journey. Any thoughts, comments – (what’s something you wish you knew at the start?) –  hit me up in the comments below.

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  1. […] November last year I wrote a post titled, 5 Things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA.  At the time, someone pointed out on the Adelaide MBA Alumni LinkedIn Group that I was doing well […]